Limit your expectations
The fewer expectations you have for your adult children, the less likely you are to be disappointed when they're so busy with their new lives that they don't call or visit as often as you would like.
Think back on your young adulthood for a moment.
How much time did you spend with your own parents?
Even young adults who feel close to their parents can get so busy with the demands of building an independent life that they don't notice the time passing.
What to do?
Keep in touch in ways that are meaningful to them.
My friend Sharon has two delightful and busy adult children in their thirties. "But we keep in close touch because I communicate their way," she says. "I'm good at texting. I had to learn in order to keep up with my daughter Carrie."
And my friend Tim, whose four children range in age from 27 to 35 and lead busy lives far away from home, keeps in touch by phone and email and also on Facebook -- which he set up at their urging. The loving messages posted by his kids on his Facebook page warm his spirit -- and also the hearts of his friends reading the messages.
The woman writing to the New York Times complained about being a "bit player" in her offspring's lives. There does come a time when our children grow up to enjoy busy young adulthood: they're building careers and relationships, starting families, reveling in their independence. It's their day, their moment, just at the time when we're feeling that some major parts of our lives are beginning to wind down. Instead of feeling diminished and left out, one can get in tune with the rhythm of life. We can reframe being a "bit player" to "having a front row seat" or "cheering them on." Letting the pleasure of generativity flow over you as you marvel at the accomplishments of your children and grandchildren can be life-changing.
As a parent, you've devoted many of your adult years to nurturing your children. And, as long as you live, they will always be central to your life. But now that your kids are grown and on their own, you have opportunities you haven't had in years to pursue interests long neglected, to enjoy new intimacy with your spouse, to imagine and create your own future. While you may feel pleasure watching your children find love and success, they may also feel pleasure watching you thrive in your own way. A dear family friend, Orlie Laing, who lived next door to us when I was growing up, was a particular inspiration. After retiring as a college professor and seeing his two children into independent young adult lives, he devoted himself to music, learning to play the violin, and to re-discovering his passion for figure skating. He became a competitive ice dancer and enjoyed the sport into his nineties. His children -- and those of us who also loved him -- were thrilled for him. Having your own life and interests can be a great gift not only to you, but also to your children.
Remembering your son or daughter as a baby or toddler who considered you his or her whole world can warm your heart. There may be times when you miss being so central to your children's daily lives. There may be times when you feel life passing you by. My Aunt Molly used to say that, as you age, "you're welcome at the party, but the party isn't for you." That can be a matter of perspective. But participating in the party, minus the burden of being the central focus, can be even more satisfying. Now is a time to let go of old responsibilities and expectations. It is a time to celebrate your own independence. It is a time for new adventures of your own. Life isn't over by any measure. When your life is full and happy, your children will be even more inclined to want to share time with you and to cheer you on, too, as you all explore your new phases of life.